What I do know
Linux package formats are the different file formats used to package software for various Linux distributions.
A software package refers to computer software packaged in an archive format to be installed by a package management system or a self-sufficient installer.
Linux distributions are normally segmented into packages. Each package contains a specific application or service.
Whether it is Ubuntu, Fedora, Arch, OpenSuse, PCLinuxOS, Gentoo we need different packages for each distribution. And because different distributions needs different packages and formats, there's a lot of lost effort. Many people are duplicating the packaging effort, when we could be so much more efficient.
The current state of packaging is a setback for the distributions, the developers and the users.
You could of course argue that this situation is not a problem for the experienced Linux users — they might
choose to install directly from source code or at least make decisions about the best way of installing the software themselves. However, for a newcomer in the GNU/Linux world, this situation is pretty confusing.
What I don't understand
I agree that diversity is good, but the waisted effort in this format war just seems insane. If just some of the largest distributions would get together and standardize on one of the current formats, like .Deb or .RPM. But, really, it doesn't matter - just choose one and everyone just use it!
Are we stuck because developers can’t agree on which format is the superior one? Would it be possible to start over, in a joint effort to create a new format with all the capabilities?
I know Linux Standard Base have tried to solve these challenges, but at the moment LSB just looks like a stranded whale. If every distribution could utilize the same packages - that would be amazing!
I can of course understand that the transition from one format to another would require a huge amount of work, but I think it would be worth it in the end.
Feel free to enlighten me :-)
UPDATE: When the question ’should we put your advocacy weight behind one distro?' was asked at OggCamp 2009, the conversation also covered packaging!